Life gives us a lot to deal with. Everybody’s working so hard to put food on the table, keep appointments, maintain connections, and, hopefully, have at least 20 minutes per day just to breathe and do something nice for themselves. Yet here I am, advocating for you to spend those hard-earned 20 minutes on a creativity exercise. But trust me, a technique called the Morning Pages is so worth it! I believe it has the potential to change your life like it did mine.
What are Morning Pages?
The idea of writing Morning Pages comes from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
She writes, “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow”.
The book encourages aspiring artists to uncover their creativity from the burden of fears, bad memories, and poor past experiences. It focuses on giving oneself permission to dream and do art for the sake of doing art.
How do Morning Pages play into that concept? This technique allows you to do a methodical “brain dump”, freeing your mind from the white noise of random thoughts. Morning Pages are meant to be done first thing in the morning ― that means before you check your e-mail, social media feed, or news. It is an effective way of unloading the things that bother you on paper and giving your brain a chance to reset before the new day begins.
But I’m Not A Writer!
It’s important to mention that Morning Pages is a journaling technique rather than a writing exercise. It is not meant to improve your grammar or punctuation. These notes are not leaving your house; you won’t be critiqued or judged based on what you’ve written. Moreover, you’re not even supposed to reread them yourself. This is why Morning Pages are beneficial to everyone, regardless of their writing skills. As long as this method injects clarity and focus into their day, this technique is working as intended.
You might be tempted to disagree. “Well, I’m not an artist, and I’m not a creative person, so this won’t work for me.” But please know that’s simply not true. Everybody – everybody – does something creative in their life; we’re simply not used to acknowledging habitual tasks as tiny creative endeavors. Some of the most obvious examples are cooking, organizing, and managing people or businesses. Moreover, you don’t need to be a particular kind of artist to take advantage of Morning Pages. Making art i’s about creating something from nothing and exploring your passions. Simply put, it all counts.
How Do Morning Pages Work?
As Julia Cameron stated, there’s no wrong way to do Morning Pages. When writing, you can dump any thoughts that come to mind. A journal entry can start off with the right now: what are you wearing, what did you have for breakfast, what did you dream of. Then, if nothing comes to mind, fill the page with “I don’t know what to write about.” By the end of the first page, something new will pop into your head, guaranteed.
Once the mental ice is broken, you might be able to write about recent frustrations and grievances. For example, try to recall if something bugged you at work or school. Or, maybe, your neighbor won’t stop drilling during your most productive hours? Or, possibly, you have encountered a streak of bad luck with parking spaces? Write down anything no matter what your inner critic tells you. No thought is too petty or insignificant. The Pages can be very scattered and all over the place, but that shouldn’t bother you.
Your daily three pages illustrate your stream of consciousness. You did not invent anything that finds its way to the page of the journal. These concerns were already a part of you. You might not have thought of them in fully formed sentences; they could’ve been the emotion you experienced, a vibe, or even simply an uneasy feeling of unknown origin. They occupied some space in your brain, but they’re free now that they’re on paper. You’ll find that writing down these annoying insignificant thoughts is the best way of stopping them from hovering over your mind and distracting you from your daily activities. Think of Toby creating a “New York file” for Dwight in “The Office” show. Giving yourself a safe space to complain about little things will make your days so much more bearable, even if they don’t solve the problem on hand.
What Else Can You Use Morning Pages For?
There are many ways to apply this technique in your life. For example, some people like to fill their three pages with affirmations, intentions, and plans rather than events from the past. That is perfectly fine too. After all, the main purpose of Morning Pages is to give you clarity, so why not use them to clarify your ideas for your future?
Only you can decide what works for you. I strongly believe that the best tool is the one that you actually use, so make of Morning Pages what you will. This technique should serve you and your goals, not the other way around. Sometimes that means taking a short break (I’ve certainly been less than consistent with my writing once my schedule changed or got too full).
At the same time, there might be days when you simply don’t feel like writing. But, if you’re not severely limited in time, I suggest that you try anyway. Humans are too good at self-sabotage and procrastination for us to treat common hiccups as actual roadblocks. The magic of Morning Pages comes from knowing when to push yourself to complete your daily brain dump. Sometimes a simple session results in a revelation or an unexpected solution once the mind has been freed up.
Now, last but not least, let me mention a few tips that have helped me stick to Morning Pages for many years (even if with breaks):
No rereading or sharing, especially if you’re a writer. You don’t want to give your inner critic any food for thought. Morning pages are for internal use only, and once they’re out of your mind, they should also be out of your sight!
Find a pen and paper that feel nice. I don’t know if paper quality is as important to you as it is to me, but I refuse to use any notebooks that don’t feel right. I own an unreasonably large collection of Peter Pauper Press products (I’m not affiliated or sponsored; I’m simply obsessed and addicted lol). The same applies to pens; find one that feels nice in your hand and produces smooth, smudge-free writing. Personally, I prefer gel pens in different colors that I can pick depending on my mood.
Make. It. Simple. Morning is my least favorite time of the day, and please trust me when I say that it takes a conscious effort to do anything other than go back to sleep. I encourage the Morning Pages habit by leaving the notebook and pens on the night table nearby and allowing myself to stay in bed while I write. Again, customize this suggestion for yourself 🙂 But consider that your brain will use any opportunity to give up within the first couple of weeks, so give yourself every honest chance to succeed by preparing your writing supplies the night before.
No phone/conversations with other people. This is the rule that I struggle with the most. I have an unhealthy relationship with my phone, and it’s entirely too easy for me to grab it and open social media or Discord before I even register my actions. Bad habits are bad, and this one is particularly disruptive. Whatever information you consume, it will immediately change your state of mind, making you process outside news instead of encouraging introspection. Moreover, you can get distracted to a point where you forget your intentions and run out of time allocated to the Pages. It’s almost too easy.
But whatever you do, remember to keep trying. Picking up a new habit, especially in the case of the Morning Pages method, can be terrifying. However, the effect it provides is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. You don’t have to do it in a perfect way; you just need to keep doing it. Hope this information helps, and you get yet another tool in the arsenal of helpful tips that encourage creative living.